Writing from the Deeper Self

Writing from the Deeper Self

Rough Drafts and Revisions

The need for writers to accept the process of rough drafts and revisons.

By Naomi Rose | Updated May 20, 2018

It's human to want to create something all finished, all perfect, all at once, from the outset. A flash of desire or inspiration seizes us, and we begin the lengthy process of writing a book that began in our hearts. We set out with perhaps some trepidation, but also a sense of new beginnings: a destination to be reached, and a path as yet not fully known.

The strength of our desire, even despite likely internal obstacles ~ self-doubt, lack of experience of being fully encouraged, feeling vulnerable and small ~ is the "big bang" of conception, the birthing-force that brings this world-to-be onto our horizon. Did we not have this desire to bring something new into being ~ to create ~ we could not see the process through. For, as I have written so often, writing a book is a process, and it affects the writer as much as what gets written. And this process, much like gestation, labor, and birth, requires nourishment, caring, commitment, and patience for the long haul.

When you fill out a form, everything is laid out before you: you just fill in the blanks. There is even a book around about how to write a book in this way, similar to the "paint by numbers" approach. This method will, indeed, produce the requisite number of pages, and that output can, technically, be called "a book. But a book that is created ~ more, that is created by a human being who has, in this process, the experience of actually being a creator ~ that requires something else.

There is a phrase I love: "We build the road as we travel." I first came across this as the title of a book about building cooperatives, based on the experience of a meta-cooperative in Spain, Mondragon, a cooperative that has existed since the 1930s, is still alive and well, and has inspired countless other cooperatives. This same phrase came back to me early one morning, as the sun was coming up and I pulled the final page out of my typewriter, fulfilled and happy.

For I had been feeling that something was not quite right with my book-in-progress, Living in MotherWealth, and while still lying in bed in the wee hours my mind and soul were searching to find out what it was. When it came to me, although the alarm clock said 5:30 and my usual rising time is 7:30, I got out of bed and padded into the living room, where my typewriter awaited.

For the next two hours I wrote, in that most-desired way: totally absorbed; still, within; conscious and yet passionate. There were the words and feelings and understandings that had been missing, which added the ingredients that had been missing: depth ~ personal experience that provided a lens by which readers might touch into their own ~ distillation ~ perspective ~ range ~ the weaving of the pieces into a whole. By the time I finished, seven pages later, not only did I feel the deep satisfaction of having found the words to match the inner experience and intent, but I also could see that onlyby having written the not-quite-right drafts beforehand could I possibly have come to know what I needed to write about, in order to tune the chapter, today.

That is: in order to complete the picture, you need to have something to work with: even rough drafts, false starts, nuggets of gold almost hidden within longer paragraphs of adored (or not-so-adored) verbiage that you know in your heart of hearts will need to go (or at least be revised). True, sometimes you are just sublimely attuned, and what you write comes out all finished the first time: weighted like a feather, nothing could or should be added to it, or it would sink.

But more often ~ especially with a long, lengthy project like a book (unlike, say, these short features I write, which often don't require a great deal of revision) ~ drafts and detours and dead-ends are simply part of the process, part of how you know who you are and what you want to say, and how you want to say it. If you don't allow yourself to put something down that at least is a marker of your intention to move forward on this path of book-writing from the deeper Self, then you don't have that something to perfect. It can't tell you "close, but not quite," or "yes, this part, but it needs a little something," or "okay, but what's the transition between what came before and this?" or "fine, fine, but too much unrelieved description. How can I shift the perspective, the pace? How can I bring this to life for myself?"

What we write down ~ what we see on paper, or the computer screen ~ constitutes the materialization of what is in our hearts, minds, souls. We must see something in order to see what more is needed, whether to continue on that path or take an alternate route. No matter how rough and awkward that something, it is still an indicator of the territory, even if what it tells you is "not this." "Not this" has the possibility to engender, "Well, then what?" and possibilities arising out of that question, that space. I cannot tell you how many kindergartenish first drafts I have personally been responsible for. When I was younger, I would despair: "This is terrible! What made me think I could write? I should give up right now." And in those years, often, I did.

But over time, a pattern began to emerge. Often, the things most close to my heart were what came out most awkwardly. Indeed, the closer to my heart, the more awkwardly they came out. I did not then understand the intimate relationship between the treasures of our being ~ how some of them have lived in hiding, waiting for discovery, waiting for a time in which we are ready to come close to that hidden place, in a spirit not of condemnation but compassion ~ and the youngness with which they are often first expressed, the rooting, crawling phase of their life.

For imagine: once upon a time you had a treasure, but it was threatened ~ criticized, dismissed, stolen, whatever ~ and you decided that until such time as it was safe, you would not bring that treasure into public view. Then, when you grow up, you may forget that there's a treasure within, or ~ offering it its first public expression onto paper ~ you forget that once you valued that treasure like you value life, and so you join the roster of those who condemned, dismissed, or stole it. And yet here is this treasure, this kindergarten-level expression of the treasure, needing light, needing encouragement, needing "What a beautiful picture of the sun, just like a wheel!" Only then, in the light of acceptance and encouragement, can that kindergarten drawing of the sun-with-spokes gradually metamorphose into a rich, vibrant, pulsating sphere that radiates warmth and light and happiness. (I'm trusting that my using a visual analogy translates into writing in words.)

This is the road we build as we travel. We write something, and we sense it isn't perfect. But the very act of writing it down gives us a territory to traverse, and to have a look-out point from which to get perspective. We cannot get perspective in our minds all at once; even if we did, it's a rare experience to recall it all and just "take dictation." Creating is not simply "channeling": it is receiving what comes, after inviting that presence to come, and then being present to it so that we can bring ourselves into it fully. In the process, lumps are visible; muddy roads; inclines that, like the staircases in the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, don't go anywhere, just butt up against a ceiling; and so on. The best response to all this is not "Oh my God, this is hopeless, what makes me think I can write?" etc. but "I'm getting the picture, even if some of it isn't yet clear."

Unlike a dance performance, or a theatrical event, or a choral rendition of music, writing is not a performance (though you can do a reading, afterwards, that is). Writing from the deeper Self is a journey into more and more intimate territory, even if what you are writing about is sea anemones; and, this is a very forgiving journey. Until you make the decision to show your writing to others, no one but you and God are watching. It is a private, even sacred, experience; and it can be changed enroute, as you more fully get what you are doing and why. Revision is not a punishment, it is a gift you give yourself. It is a way to refine what presents itself to you, and it is possible only because you are tolerating, trusting, that you do not have to be perfect and "get it right," you only have to stay present and see what speaks to you most truly. As that happens, you begin to trust your sense of things, to know when you are "on" and when you are "off," and even to value knowing when you are "off" because it leads you closer to finding how to be "on."

To write a book from the deeper Self in a way that rewrites your sense of yourself, that enlarges and expands you, that shows you where you hid your treasures and how to dig them free, there is no exact template you can follow. But what you can do is build the road as you travel, and enjoy the traveling, the building, and the path under your feet that takes you to your (perhaps refining) destination ~ the path you also leave for others to walk on as they garner courage to build their own.

Next: When Books Are Less Than Life

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